LACK OF FINANCIAL LITERACY IN AMERICA’S SCHOOLS

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“According to Money, the average millennial household “owes $14,800 in student loans.” Writer Kerri Anne Renzulli explains that while debt averages vary across each generation, people of all ages are demonstrating a greater comfort with debt. As everyone becomes more comfortable with financing and credit, there is a greater risk that accumulated debt will never be paid off in full.

‘Younger people are taking on debt at a higher rate and paying it off at a lower rate,’ says Lucia Dunn, an economics professor at Ohio State University who has studied consumer debt. ‘When they reach age 75, the debt picture for them will look a lot different than what we currently see. When you project out these trends, it is not so optimistic.’

The country should take a proactive approach in preventing debt from spiraling further. Requiring personal finance in high schools with the goal of establishing financial literacy in young people before they become independent is a logical first step.” (Read entire article here https://www.nola.com/interact/2018/11/should_high_schools_be_require.html)

Last week, I had the privilege of volunteering as part of Leadership Montgomery at Finance Park at Thomas Edison High School in Montgomery County. Growing up, I was involved with Junior Achievement in high school and jumped at the opportunity to be included in this experience with some 7th graders from Briggs Chaney Middle School. As part of this program, I spoke to the students about managing debt, establishing credit, the benefit of low interest rates on your monthly payments, and the idea of “wants vs. needs.”   In today’s world, many adults still struggle with these concepts and even many Wharton students lack a basic financial education.(https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/26/even-mba-students-could-use-some-basic-money-lessons.html). It is extremely important that we start basic financial education at an early age so that our children have the financial wisdom necessary to become successful adults.

 

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The Importance of Personal Finance Knowledge

Financial Knowlege

For years, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has tracked American personal finance knowledge through a survey about saving habits and basic financial principles. FINRA recently released the results of its 2015 survey, which includes the fact that only 37% of those who took the survey could answer four of the five questions on a basic financial literacy quiz. Four out of five is FINRA’s baseline for high financial literacy. Back in 2009, 42% of the respondents were considered to meet this level of financial literacy. (If you’re curious, you can take the quiz here.)

We’ve previously written about biases in financial habits and the desolate state of personal finance education in high school and college, and this study re-confirms our suspicions. Way less than half of the American population has a sufficient understanding of the basic ideas necessary for successful saving and financial planning! That is nearing crisis levels.

Make no mistake–an ignorance of personal finance, while probably unintentional, has serious consequences. Just over half of respondents said they are worried about running out of money in retirement, only one in five are willing to take risks when investing, and 57% say they set long-term financial goals. But, when taken together with those statistics, the most concerning part is that 76% have a high self-assessment of their financial literacy.

As finance writer Jeff Sommer points out in his recent column, this means that Americans don’t know very much about personal finance and saving, but think they do. The positive self-perception is also the only figure to have significantly increased since 2009.

Improving financial conditions can create a false sense of security for many savers who think their current status makes them recession-proof. This is a huge reason why I decided to start my own firm. I recognized the alarming lack of awareness about saving, spending and the markets, and noted many common bad habits that can lead to trouble in an economic downturn. (For related reading, see: Behavioral Finance: How Bias Can Hurt Investing.)

The lack of education is compounded by the unavailability of many big-name institutions who offer financial advice and wealth management services to many. Traditional wealth management practices often have high account minimums that make their financial advice unreachable for most people. Moreover, even if you can open an account with a wealth manager, they may not be required by law to act in only your best interest, which can lead to inefficient investments for you that pay them commissions.

The reality is that many people are scared by the thought of investing. Since many Americans are mostly in the dark, they may not know where to go or how to start. That’s why it’s important to use online resources and educate yourself on all aspects of personal finance. (For related reading, see: 6 Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisor.)

This article was originally published on Investopedia.com

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The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.
If you have any questions regarding this Blog Post, please Contact Us.

Fear Keeps Millennials on Investing Sidelines

Fear of Investing

Millennials are nervous about investing. Recent surveys have shown that 70% of millennials keep their savings in cash rather than invest it in the stock market.

But by not investing early on, these people in their 20s and early 30s miss out on the key advantage they have at a young age: time. Because your investment returns are compounded, the earlier you start investing the more — and longer — will the returns add up, ultimately leaving you with more money in the bank.

So what are millennials waiting for? Many of the concerns holding them back from the market boil down to a lack of information about investing. Some of the most common fears are:

‘I have no idea where to start’

Many potential young investors have no idea where to start even if they wanted to buy just one stock. And then they don’t know how to choose which stock or fund to invest in. Since most people don’t get personal finance education as part of their schooling, investing can seem enormously daunting and precarious.

A little online research can demystify many of the basic investing concepts, such as how compounded interest works, how patience can be beneficial, and how to not overreact to temporary dips in the market. Working with a financial advisor to develop a plan and ease into an investing strategy also can help reduce your stress and anxiety about entering the stock market.

‘I haven’t even paid off my loans — I can’t start saving’

Concern about debt, particularly student loans, is understandable and widespread among millennials. Student loan borrowers have an average debt of almost $30,000 for undergraduate loans. The question of whether to pay off student loan debt more aggressively or use the extra money to start saving is a tough one because people don’t have the same financial situations. Your debt, cash flow and spending circumstances are unique and will require a plan that’s customized to you.

Keep in mind, however, that your years as a young professional are your prime saving period. If you can stomach not using all your extra money to pay off loans, you could reap the long-term benefit of investing early. Paying down a high-interest loan is a priority. But if the interest is low enough, consider creating a financial plan that allots some of your savings to an IRA or 401(k). Over time, the return on that investment, with the help of compounded interest, can make the trade-off worthwhile.

If you don’t have high-interest loans, creating a long-term, comprehensive financial plan that includes saving and investing is the best way of making sure you’ll have the funds you’ll need in the future, whether it’s to pay down debt, buy or rent a house, or make any other important expenditure. If you live on a tight budget, controlling and mapping out your spending becomes even more important.

‘I don’t trust, or can’t afford, financial advisors’

Many advisors require high asset minimums that may be well out of reach for young investors. And even then, the advisor could put your money in inefficient investment products that could generate commissions and other hidden fees for the advisor and inflate your investing costs.

Many advisors are not legally obligated to act only in their clients’ best interest; they merely have to suggest “suitable” investments. In many cases this means investments for which they are paid a commission. But those who uphold the fiduciary standard are required to put their clients’ interests first. And fee-only advisors are paid solely for the advice they give you, and not through commissions on the products they recommend.

Millennials are right to be wary of the industry, but there are advisors who won’t put their profit goals ahead of yours. Look for a fee-only fiduciary advisor. You may also want to work initially with a fiduciary advisor who charges by the hour if advisors with asset-management minimums are out of reach.

You need a financial plan that’s customized for your own situation and goals. But that doesn’t mean you can afford a delayed start. The sooner you map out a financial plan and start saving and investing, the bigger the payoff will be down the road.

This article was originally published on Nerdwallet.com

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The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.
If you have any questions regarding this Blog Post, please Contact Us.

Where Millennials Can Turn for Financial Advice

Sherman Wealth Management | Fee Only Fiduciary

We live in a fascinating time. The biggest wealth transfer in history is beginning, as Millennials will soon become the wealth bearing demographic in this county.  Not surprisingly, as we pointed out in a recent blog post, personal finance is a huge issue for many Millennials. But where can a Millennial turn for advice?

Goals, dreams, jobs, family plans, etc. are going to vary widely, but there a few common themes that seem relevant across the spectrum. We constantly write on many of these issues, so decided to summarize the topics for you and answer some of those nagging questions.

 

  • Getting started is often the hardest part. Beginning a savings plan early is key, which makes planning all the more important. We constantly preach the importance of determining your short, intermediate and long term goals and then focusing on creating a plan on how to achieve them. Having the “money conversation” is a great way to get started. Remember, it’s not how much you make, but how much you save. Read more here on getting started with the money conversation.

 

  • Student Loans/Debt – A common financial hurdle for many millennials is navigating student loans. So how do you determine if your focus should be on accelerating the payoff of that debt or maximizing saving instead? We wrote about that here.

 

 

  • Knowing Who to Trust – Even if you understand the advantages of investing in the stock market, it’s not always easy to find a professional you can trust. A recent facebook study shows that over 50% of millennials have no one to trust for financial guidance.

 

FB Study

Source: insights.fb.com

 

A few months back we wrote a piece titled “Why Go Where Your Money’s Not Wanted” that touches on the point of many financial institutions turning down Millennials as clients. Most of the corporate institutions prefer high-net worth clients because it creates “efficiencies of scale” and a higher profit margin on larger trades. As frustrating as the requirement for a high minimum balance is for first time investors, it’s actually one of the main reasons I created Sherman Wealth Management. It was important to me to make sure top notch financial advice was available to anyone and everyone,  particularly to those who are starting out on the path to wealth accumulation. We created this guide to make sure you are asking your potential financial advisors the right questions to determine if they are right for you. – 6 Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisor

 

  • Marriage – Getting married is more than just substituting the word “ours” for “yours” and “mine”. It’s combining your finances, histories, dreams, aspirations, possessions – even your music – and making all of that “ours” too. If you have started to think about marriage, or are married already, there are a few financial discussions you should be sure you have.  Since a significant part of those pre-marital dreams and aspirations involve money, having multiple financial conversations before marriage (or right after, if you’re newlyweds!) can help you start married life on a firmer footing, with regard to financial goals. Here are two blogs we wrote for those getting married or already married.

 

  • Buying a house – There are studies out there saying that Millennials are not buying houses. A prudent home purchase often can be one of the most stable and solid investments a young person can make. So why the hesitation? Some Millennials wonder if given the rate increase and current market turmoil – if this is really the right time to purchase a first home, or if renting makes more sense for you right now? We wrote about this exact topic here.

 

  • Kids – Babies change your life in many ways, including requiring large amounts of time and money. While you may already be thinking about childcare costs and options, or about paying the medical bills that accompanied your new child, there are several other – important – financial considerations you should be thinking about even before the new baby arrives – 5 Planning Tips for New Parents

 

If this all seems overwhelming, don’t be discouraged. Personal finance is a journey and everyone is going to take a slightly different path. Taking the initiative to educate yourself on these topics is a great 1st step.

We are passionate about improving financial literacy in our society which is why we try to write blogs like these that will be useful to those trying to navigate the rocky waters on personal finance. If there are additional topics you would like us to write about, we would love to hear your thoughts! Email us at info@shermanwealth.com.

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The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.
If you have any questions regarding this Blog Post, please Contact Us.

My Response To a Millennial’s Open Letter To CNBC

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After the markets took an incredibly volatile ride on August 24th, zerohedge.com published this letter to CNBC from a millennial named Ryan, who wrote:

“I’ve dipped my toes in the stock market this past year but after today’s action, I have to say I’m done. Forever. Gone. Don’t count on another dime of mine in the market.”

Ryan isn’t alone. A surprising 74% of Millennials surveyed said they do not own stocks. And that’s unfortunate for Ryan and his fellow GenY-ers.

Ryan’s letter is worth a read – and he’s makes a couple of good points – but he’s also misses a very important point: none of this should really matter to a Millennial.

Here’s why.

“I’m sure countless little guys had their stocks absolutely steamrolled this morning only to see the big guys scoop up the shares on a discount.”  

There is obviously a wide range of ways to experience the market: as a small investor, as a large investor, and as a robot.  Are other people going to do better than you sometimes? Sure. They’re also going to do better than you at sudoko, finding parking spaces, and – unfortunately in my case – Fantasy Football as well. But that shouldn’t matter to you, and shouldn’t keep you from investing in your own financial independence.

The stock market is volatile and, sure, some investors may make impressive bets while others experience much too impressive losses (all investing involves risk, including the risk of the loss of principal.) But, historically, the S&P 500 averaged a 7-8% return (after inflation)* each year and that’s value you’re missing out on if you’re not invested.

 “The only “people” who can react to those pricing distortions in real time are computers. This isn’t a place for small time people like me.”

Nothing beats human guidance and judgment to prevent panic selling or override a previous decision when a drop in a price is anomalous and not due to a fundamental loss in value. Having a plan and sticking to it is usually the best approach and there are great Financial Advisors ready to help you or sharing their insight on the web.

“The only reasonable thing that any little guy can do is sit back and say, “Wow there is a lot of distortion going on and I can’t even guess at these prices.”

Investing shouldn’t be guesswork and doesn’t have to be. A good financial advisor – or your own research – can help you select a diversified group of financial instruments tailored to your own financial goals and risk tolerance. With that in place, along with a well-thought-out plan for steady saving and investing, market price fluctuations should not disrupt your plan. If you’ve got a solid financial plan, investing in the stock market does not affect your ability to pay your rent, take care of yourself or your family, or add to that rainy day emergency fund.

I hope you reconsider, Ryan.

As Millennials, we’re in it for the long haul, we have years of disciplined savings ahead of us with interest that will continue to compound if we avoid reacting emotionally to the markets.

Once the uneasiness of August 24th has worn off (and much of that day’s paper losses have already been recovered,) I hope you and the millions of Millennials who are not yet investing, take advantage of the opportunity to invest while you are young, to maximize your options for reaching your own financial goals, whatever they may be.

 

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*http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/042415/what-average-annual-return-sp-500.asp

10 Important Things To Discuss Before Marriage

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10 Things to Discuss Before the Big Day

You are excited, in love, and planning the wedding of your dreams. Probably the only money questions on your mind are the down payments for the caterers and the florists!

Yet – whether your wedding reflects a minimalist sensibility or is a no-holds-barred extravaganza – it’s better to have a good understanding of each other’s finances before the “I Do’s”. This is a time when procrastination could cost you a bundle, even if neither one of you currently have a lot of assets.

Getting married is more than just substituting the word “ours” for “yours” and “mine”.  It’s combining your finances, histories, dreams, aspirations, possessions – even your music – and making all of that “ours too. Since a significant part of those dreams and aspirations involve money, having multiple financial conversations before marriage (or right after, if you’re newlyweds!) can help you start married life on a firmer footing, with regard to financial goals.

Here are a few conversations that will get your marriage off to a smoother financial start:

1) Views on money. How we feel about money is often very emotional and very personal. Our family’s views on money can have a big impact on the way we see finances. In some families money may not be talked about. In others, one partner may hide money or spending from the other. While we might not consciously have these same behaviors, our upbringing will have an impact on how we feel about money and how we save, spend, and budget.

The best way to address unconscious – and sometimes conflicting – money behaviors is to start by recognizing how you each feel about money. Then you can take a practical approach and implement the best strategies from the past and incorporate them into your new relationship. This will also give you a chance to address any not-so-beneficial attitudes and behaviors and work to consciously change them.

2) Spending/Saving Habits. Chances are the two of you don’t spend and save money the same way. The interesting thing about spending and saving habits is that they give insight into priorities, both financial and otherwise because we tend to spend money on things we feel are most important and scoff at spending on things we see as unimportant.  Some people value saving more than anything and could be considered “tightwads”. Other people have a “live for today” attitude and spend whatever they have available, saving nothing or little for later. Most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle.

Not agreeing on spending priorities can lead to serious conflicts down the line. While there is no right and wrong answer regarding priorities and habits, it’s valuable to know and understand each other’s habits earlier rather than later.

3) Divvying Up the Bills. This is an important conversation about how you will manage your money together. Will you have separate or joint accounts? Who will be responsible for paying the bills and investing for long term goals? A realistic understanding both of your current incomes and current debts is important so you can create a realistic budget based on your combined income and expenses.

4) Credit History. No one likes to talk about credit ratings because they highlight past mistakes and spending habits. Yet it’s essential to know and discuss your credit histories. This can help you talk about past money mistakes, current debt loads, and how to address any issues that are lurking. Having this conversation now will also help if you’re planning to borrow money for a large purchase, such as a home or car; credit history will effect how much you’ll pay in interest for loans, as well as how much it will cost for things like insurance. Many companies even pull credit for potential job applicants. When it comes to credit, it’s best not to have surprises down the road, so have the conversation now.

5) Risk Tolerance and Financial Goals. Couples often have very strong – and differing – feelings about risk and money that are deeply rooted in past experiences.  Your family may have gone through periods of unemployment, for instance, or  you may have grown up taking financial security for granted. One of your parents may have owned a business and you saw it go bankrupt,  so you might be very conservative with your money and not want to take unnecessary chances. Or perhaps they invested in a business that was a huge success.

Everyone brings a different level of comfort when it comes to risk tolerance and it’s important to understand your partner’s because it has an impact on spending and savings habits – everything from where you invest to how much money you want to set aside. Money provides a level of security that can be very powerful and risk tolerance is directly linked to that feeling of security.

6) Ongoing Financial Obligations. If this is a second marriage, are there child support or alimony payments that need to be considered in the budget process? If so, how much and how long will the obligations need to be fulfilled. Caring for elderly parents might also be a long term expense you will be facing as a couple.

7) Net Worth. When it’s a first marriage, often neither partner has much in the way of assets, but if one partner has more than the other, are you going to want a pre-nuptial agreement? When discussing net worth it is valuable to discuss not only current net worth, but also aspiring net worth. What household income level are you both hoping to achieve. Will reaching those aspirations include additional education? Will it mean switching jobs several times early in your career? Will it mean working 80 hours a week for decades? As a couple, understanding financial expectations and future net worth aspirations will help you plan a life together that will meet both of your needs, financially and emotionally.

8) Family Plans. The family size you hope to have will also have a big impact on your financial needs. Children, as wonderful as they are, are very expensive to raise. Do you both want to have children and, if so, one child or several children? Discussions about how the children will be raised and educated are also valuable from a financial perspective. Will one of you stay home to raise the children? Will you pay for day care? How far apart should the children be? Each of these answers will have a significant financial impact to the family budget.

9) Combining Physical and Financial Assets. Particularly with couples getting married later, both partners will have accumulated possessions that now need to be combined. This can be as simple as which sofa and bedroom set to keep, or more complicated when multiple homes, retirement accounts, and other investments are brought into the mix. Discussing whether property, accounts, and debt should be left in individual names or held jointly is also an important conversation to have.

10) Wills, Trusts, and Life Insurance. When you’re getting married, you don’t really want to think about death. Yet wills, trusts, and life insurance need to be updated soon after you say, “I Do.” This is true especially if you have assets or children. The process of obtaining a will or trust is fairly straightforward; it’s the discussions that lead up to it that provide the most value. Both of you should have a good understanding of what you have and what you want to happen, should the unthinkable occur.

Financial advisors can be a real asset, when it comes to pre-marital financial discussions. They can help you determine when it is best to hold assets jointly or separately. Assistance with budgeting and planning for long term goals will help you create a strong financial plan. Advisors can also guide you in building a strategy for reaching financial milestones.

So, if you’re getting married (or just got married), congratulations! And while these discussions may not be the most romantic ones you’re having, they do have the ability to bring you closer together. Planning together and sharing your dreams will give you better insight into the mind and heart of the person you’ve fallen in love with and allow you to become stronger partners when it comes to reaching your goals as a couple, emotional as well as financial.

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The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.
If you have any questions regarding this Blog Post, please Contact Us.

Should You Start to Save… or Pay Down Debt?

Pay Down Debt

Millennials have an entrepreneurial spirit and tend to have a lot on their plates. Being able to juggle several balls in the air and multi-task is par for the course for this generation. So why do Millennials often struggle with how to prioritize between saving for the future and paying down debt?

Many Millennials still have college loans to pay off or have acquired credit card debt while taking home minimal starting salaries. And advice about how to get started is confusing: some financial professionals recommend having at least one month of income saved prior to starting to pay down your debt, while others recommend up to 8 months of savings. That’s a daunting prospect when you’re young and living from paycheck to paycheck!

Because of the power of compounding interest, the 20s and 30s are your prime savings years. Not taking advantage of the opportunity to save now may end up costing you later. So how can you start to build your savings and pay down debt, while still maintaining a reasonable quality of life?

The good news is that – because they’re used to a struggling economy – Millennials have become very resourceful when it comes to finances. Here are several factors to consider when you’re deciding how much you can – or even if you can – allocate for both.

Three Questions to consider about saving vs. debt:

What is my monthly incoming & outgoing cash flow? Hopefully it’s not negative! If it is, though, try to find daily and household expenses that can be trimmed or eliminated (that venti caramel latte? An expensive cable package?) If it’s positive, determine if there’s enough left over to pay credit card minimums while allocating a portion, however small, toward a saving plan.

What is the interest rate on my debt? Debt with an interest rate of higher than 5% is a priority to pay down, otherwise you’re spending your hard-earned cash on borrowing costs. Can you roll over your debt to a lower-interest or zero-interest credit card? If not, create an action plan to pay off high-interest debt first. If you have debt with interest rates that are lower than 5%, consider contributing to a 401K or a Roth IRA. The same way interest compounds with your debts, it also grows with your savings, so the sooner you take action, the more you will gain over time.

What is my stress level regarding debt? If the stress of having debt is overwhelming, then make paying the debt before contributing to your savings a priority. If your debt seems manageable, start getting in the habit of making monthly contributions to a savings plan.

Remember, no two people, and no two financial plans, are alike. Whether you can contribute to a savings plan and pay down debt simultaneously depends on you and your unique situation. Talking to a financial advisor can help put you on a path that is right for you. The important thing is to create a goal and a plan!

Learn more about our Budgeting and Savings planning.

Related Reading:

What’s your Credit Score?

Brad Sherman is a financial planner who is committed to helping individuals and families achieve financial independence and gain confidence with regard to financial issues.

Call or contact him today to see if his services are a good fit for your needs.

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Navigating the Stock Market: Tips for Millennials

Understanding the Stockmarket

Navigating the stock market can be daunting for anyone, especially if you’re new to investing.

Between struggling to pay off student loans, finding jobs in a difficult market, and setting goals for financial independence in a stressed market environment, it’s been a daunting few years in general for many Millennials, who may have put off investing because they just don’t feel comfortable or ready.

Feeling comfortable with investing – and understanding how the stock market works – is critical, however, as you start gaining independence and start making important financial decisions. If you get started now, you’ll be maximizing your chances of hitting those marks on your way to achieving your goals!

Here are some basic tips to help you get started.

7 Tips For The Long Term Investor

Start today: Procrastination can put a large dent in your ultimate savings. Whether you’re investing in a retirement savings plans or a regular investment account, it’s important to start early so that your investments compound. Remember, even small amounts add up over time!

Create a plan and stick with it: There are many ways to be successful and no one strategy is inherently better than any other. Once you find your style, stick with it. Bouncing in and out of the market makes is just as likely you will miss some of the best days and hit the worst.  Readjust your portfolio when necessary, but not too often.

Think long term and be disciplined: Be prepared to buy and hold your positions. Big short-term profits can be enticing when you’re new to the market but short-term wins will get you off track. Start a program, stay invested, and don’t be too concerned with day-to-day profits and losses.  Warren Buffet once asked, “Suppose you’re going to be investing for the next several years. Do you want the price of the stocks to go up or down?” While everybody assumes it’s “up,” in reality, it’s only people who are withdrawing in the near future who really want stocks to go up!

Do your research: Always be an informed investor. Do your own due diligence with companies you’re interested in. Don’t go for a ‘hot tip’ just because there’s a lot of buzz; research companies, get advice, and decide if they’re investments that are right for you.

Never let your emotions influence you: The markets move in cycles. When the markets are up, we feel elated about our investment decisions. When markets start to move down, we may experience anxiety and panic. Reacting emotionally can lead to spur of the moment decisions that don’t benefit you in the long run. Again: think long term.

Always have a margin of safety: The first rule anyone new to investing needs to learn is that there are no guarantees in the stock market. An investment that looks great on paper does not always pan out in real life.  Know how much risk you are willing to take and make sure your investments are aligned with your risk tolerance.

Diversify: Never put all your eggs in one kind of basket. It’s important to make sure your portfolio includes both stocks and yield-producing assets, such as bonds, to cushion you against market volatility. Diversification doesn’t just mean investing in multiple companies either; investigate ways to invest in different markets, bother national and international, as well.

One final tip: find an experienced financial planner you trust, who “gets” you, your goals, and your timeline, and who can guide you as you invest in your future.

Brad Sherman is a financial planner who is committed to helping individuals and families achieve financial independence and gain confidence with regard to financial issues.

Call or contact him today to see if his services are a good fit for your needs.

Related Reading:

What is Dollar Cost Averaging?

5 Things Investors Get Wrong

5 Big Picture Things Many Investors Don’t Do

Why and How to Get Started Investing Today

Mitigating Your Investment Volatility

The Psychology of Investing

Rebalance Your Portfolio to Stay on Track With Investments

Behavioral Investing: Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus!

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Financial Planning for Millennials: Overcoming the Fear Factor

financial planning for Millennials

What do you think of when you think of Millennials? The media loves to paint Millennials as “adventurous”, “risk takers,” and “thrill seekers.” But, surprisingly, when it comes to financial planning for Millennials, their behavior is anything but risky.

In fact, there is evidence that, while emotions and biases play a large part in Millennials’ investment decisions,  fear leads the list of behavioral influences.

We Millennials grew up during the Internet crash and have witnessed one of the most turbulent market cycles in recent U.S. history. With the financial crisis of 2008, and the housing bust leading to a recession, many of us have watched our parents struggle with financial security and worry about whether they’ll ever be able to retire. Many recent grads have experienced unemployment as a result of the crisis, and many are burdened with significant student loan debt. Good times? Not.

These experiences during their impressionable years have led many Millennials to take an emotionally driven approach to Financial Planning for Millennials and to adopt conservative money habits that analysts have compared to the investment behavior of young adults during the Great Depression.

They tend to be wary of investing in equities, for instance, resorting to a behavioral bias that favors peer narratives and unscientific anecdotes – such as stories of retirement-age people whose nest eggs were destroyed by the financial crisis – over careful data analysis.

In May 2013, Wells Fargo released the results of a study surveying more than 1,400 Millennials, that found that Millennials view the stock market, and most investments, as a risk not worth taking. More than half of Millennials are “not very confident” or “not at all confident” about the stock market and many of the Millennials who do consider investing in stocks see the market as a short-term investment. The survey also found that Millennials’ primary concerns were student loan debt and paying their monthly bills.

In fact, Millennials have not only taken on more student loan debt than any previous generation but they continue to struggle in a challenging job market. With many Millennials remaining unemployed or underemployed, and with bills and debt as their top priorities, they have very little disposable income for investing. Many, according to a Pew Research poll released in October 2013, did not even begin thinking about saving or establishing a 401(k) until about five years into their careers.

Additionally, a UBS Wealth Management survey report featured on Bankrate.com found that, more 39% of the Millennials surveyed – more than any other age group – said that cash is their preferred way to invest money that they don’t need for at least ten years. That’s three times the number who chose to invest in the stock market, despite the fact that the S&P 500 has gained 17% over the past year while most cash investment yields remain below 1%.

The Danger of Playing it Safe

The problem with short-term stock investment approaches and dipping in and out of the stock market is that it can work against investors, because short-term investments may be subject to a higher rate of volatility. Instead of looking at the long-term data, which shows that stocks typically outperform other more conservative asset classes over the long run, those young investors are fearful of the short-range volatility, clouding data about the positive potential of long-term investing.

That reluctance to get into the market can be problematic for long-term portfolio growth because, without the returns from stocks, it can be difficult to reach savings and retirement goals.

Bigger is Not Always Better…When Finding a Financial Advisor

With the crash of the big banks and the negative publicity surrounding Wall Street financial firms, Millennials became a generation that looked at financial professionals with mistrust. Instead, they rely more heavily on the Internet, social media, and personal networks for financial advice. Their experience with market volatility and lack of job security has had a significant impact on their attitudes and behaviors toward investing. With very little disposable income after bills and debt payment, Millennials want to feel a sense of security with their investments.

When it comes to working with a financial professional, ‘old school’, traditional banking services are of no interest to them. Bigger is not better in their minds; a smaller, more independent financial planning firm may be able to offer a more hands-on and collaborative approach to investing that Millennials feel more comfortable with.

It’s important to Millennials that they find someone they can trust and who can relate to their concerns and be open to new ideas and methods of investing. Sherman Wealth Management understands that being a part of the investing process is a must in financial planning for Millennials. We fill a role for clients who can no longer relate to, or trust, the large financial institutions that once held a stronghold in the marketplace. The professionals at Sherman Wealth Management provide a personalized plan for investing and help our clients navigate through the difficulty of prioritizing financial obligations.

Remember how it was the overconfidence of the large financial firms and irresponsible investors that brought us the financial crisis in the first place? That Millennial reluctance to let history blindly repeat itself may turn out to be a pretty good thing after all!

Learn more about Financial Planning for Millennials and our Financial Planning services.

Related Reading:

5 Planning Tips for New Parents

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Having the Money Conversation

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Millennials have a tremendous advantage over their Baby Boomer parents because they are comfortable talking about money. Having grown up with social media and the internet, this generation is not as private as their parents and grandparents are, especially about subjects like money and finance. The advantage is that open conversations can reduce fears and increase understanding, which can result in better decision making.

Yet, with all this comfort in discussing financial matters, many Millennials are hesitant to meet with a financial advisor. It’s one thing to gather information from family and friends or read articles about investing, it’s another to discuss your personal information with a financial advisor. That’s when it moves from theoretical to personal and that can create a great deal of fear and discomfort.

Why Fear Gets the Best of Us

How Much Do You Really Know About Finances? As educated professionals, it’s common to feel like you should know everything. After all, if you don’t understand it, a few internet searches should provide the answers!

When it comes to money matters, though, many Millennials feel like a fish out of water. Internet searches can provide information that’s both confusing and conflicting, and that doesn’t answer individual questions about strategy and direction.

Then there is the question of what information can be trusted. Is the site legitimate and can the writer’s – and site’s – motivation be trusted? While financial information is plentiful, much of it’s either very general or coming from a sales site that promises a secret formula that will turn you into a millionaire.

Financial decisions by nature are very individual and personal. Because there’s no one-size-fits-all investing strategy, personal consultations are invaluable.

Advisor motivations. Can the advisor be trusted? A trusted advisor needs to understand your circumstances, goals, dreams, and aspirations. Once they do, they can help to create a long term strategy that will help to make those dreams a reality. But you must be able to trust that your advisor will make recommendations that are most beneficial to you, the client, not the best for them, the advisor.

Addressing these concerns in an open conversation will go a long way. No one wants to be sold a product. We all want to invest money in a sound strategy. Understanding the reasons for the recommendation will help you understand how it may benefit you and help you pursue your long term goals.

Fear of not being understood. As complicated individuals we want to appear like we have everything in order. In reality, sometimes we’re confident, other times not so much.

Financial advisors have seen nearly every level of financial preparedness. They have seen financial messes and worked with clients to get things corrected. They have seen strong portfolios, weak portfolios, no portfolio, and everything in between.

Even if you don’t feel you have all your ducks in a row, an advisor can help. If you’ve made bad decisions in the past, they can make recommendations for corrective action. If you’ve been unable to get things in order on your own, working with a professional can be the fastest way to get on track.

Markets not doing as expected. This can go two ways. If you invest conservatively and the market takes off you might end up kicking yourself for not being more aggressive. If the markets are slow and you invest aggressively you can end up wishing you’d been more conservative.

When you meet with an advisor, you’re meeting with a professional who understands the investment business and who can make recommendations that are consistent with your financial goals. An advisor does not have a crystal ball; remember that long term investing is not about beating the markets, it’s about making strong financial decisions that over time will lead to increased confidence in financial matters.

Pulling the Trigger

The first step is always the hardest. This is true whether you’re trying to establish a workout routine, learn a new language, start a new job, or change your investing strategy. Resisting change is natural and we are creatures of habit. However, there comes a point when, in order to grow and progress, we have to stop making excuses and get started by meeting with a financial advisor.

Make the appointment. Even if you don’t think you know enough, have enough money to invest, have a good enough paying job, or whatever the excuses for delays have been.

Before you meet with the advisor, write down questions you have. What things have you heard and what things do you want to understand. This can guide the conversation as you begin to develop a relationship with an advisor.

A financial advisor at Sherman Wealth is someone you’ll want to get to know! You’ll want them to know everything about you and your family’s needs. As your advisor learns more about you, they’ll be able to make the appropriate recommendations as opportunities arise.

Learn more about our Financial Advisor services.

Related Reading:

The Top 10 Questions to Ask a Financial Advisor
Transparency on Both Sides

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